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April 14, 2018

Baseball in South Korea: KBO League, 2018 location-map with 2017 attendances and KBO titles list./+ Illustration: 2017 Korean Series champions, the KIA Tigers.

Filed under: Baseball,Korea: baseball — admin @ 4:36 pm

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Baseball in South Korea: KBO League, 2018 location-map with 2017 attendances and KBO titles list


By Bill Turianski on 14 April 2018; twitter.com/billsportsmaps.

Links…
Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) (en.wikipedia.org).
-KBO teams…KBO League/ Teams (en.wikipedia.org).
-KBO official site/schedule, scores, standings; About KBO, etc. (in English, with Korean option)…http://eng.koreabaseball.com/.
-KBO 리그의 공식 사이트http://www.koreabaseball.com/Default.aspx.

-KBO League bunt contest, http://m.mlb.com/cutfour/2016/07/18/190349428/korean-baseball-organization-holds-bunt-derby-at-all-star-game.
-Bat flips ! (Bat flips rule. ) Best Bat Flips in KBO (3:16 video uploaded in Nov 2016 by Yoriel Lalane at youtube.com).

-My first post on KBO League (from Feb. 2010) has lots of info on the culture of Korean baseball,
Korea Baseball Organization: the 8 teams, with teams’ parent corporations listed, and baseball stadium photos (billsportsmaps.com/February 2010).

-From Deadspin.com…[warning: unfortunately, link is wonky] How To Get Into The KBO, The Wildest, Most Outlandish Baseball League In The World (by Sung Min Kim on March 28 2017 at deadspin.com).

KBO League map-page…
The map-page features a location-map of the 10 KBO League teams, including an inset-map of Greater Seoul. Circular-cap-logos are sized to reflect 2017 average attendance…the larger the circular-cap-logo, the higher the team’s attendance. There are 3 charts to the right of the map/inset-map…one chart for 2017 KBO League Attendance Data, one chart for KBO League Titles List (1982-2017), and one chart that shows all the cities in South Korea with a population above 1 million and the KBO-League-representation there. Plus there is a section that shows KBO League teams’ mascots (via 2016 stamps that were issued by Korea Post). Mascots are big time in Korean baseball (as well as in Japanese baseball). And speaking of Japan, my next post [on the 25th of April] will be of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (2018 NPB location-map with NPB teams’ profile boxes, including mascots, etc./+ Illustration for: 2017 NPB champions, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks).


(Old-content-disclaimer: the next couple of paragraphs are almost verbatim from my last post on the KBO League {from 2015}.)

Demographics of South Korea
The population of South Korea is around 51.4 million {source: 2017 estimate, here at South Korea en.wikipedia page}. This puts South Korea as the 27th-most-populous nation on Earth. South Korea is very small, though: it is the 109th-largest country (at 100,210 km-sq or 66,690 mi-sq). That makes South Korea slightly smaller than Iceland, and slightly larger than Hungary. The largest city in South Korea (by far) is, of course, Seoul…which is absolutely gigantic, and has a metro-area population that is fifth-largest on the planet. Seoul has a special-city population of around 10.1 million, and metro-area population of around 25.6 million ! {2017 figures). Only Tokyo, Japan (at ~37.8 million), Shanghai, Jakarta, and Delhi have larger metro-area populations than does Seoul. {Source.} Basically, half of the population of South Korea resides in Seoul’s metropolitan area. South Korea has about the 30th-highest adjusted-GDP in the world {see this, List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita).

KBO League est. 1982; 10 teams. Season: 144 games/5-team playoffs w/reg-season-winner getting bye to the 5-game Korean Series
Pro major-league baseball in South Korea began in 1982, with the institution of the KBO League as a 6-team league. A minor league was established eight years later in 1990 – the KBO Futures League. In 1986, the KBO League expanded to include a seventh team. In the first decade of its existence, the KBO League as a whole was only drawing in the 5 to 7 K range. By 1991, the KBO League had 8 teams. In 1995, cumulative attendance for the season finally topped 10 K per game, boosted by the exciting 1995 KBO season which saw three teams, the OB Bears, the LG Twins, and the Lotte Giants, go neck-to-neck for the pennant (the title in ’95 was won by the OB, now Doosan, Bears). However, this league attendance figure wasn’t surpassed for 14 years. After 1995, the KBO began to see dwindling fan interest that lasted for about a decade. What first helped reverse the gradual slide in attendances from 1996 to 2004 was the good showing that the South Korean national baseball team had in the first World Baseball Classic, in 2005, when they finished in third. Another boost to the game there came three years later, when South Korea narrowly lost to Japan in extra innings in the second World Baseball Classic, and then six months later, the South Korean baseball team won the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. These results convinced many South Korean sports fans that KBO baseball was a product worth supporting. In 2008, league-wide attendance shot up 2.3 K per game to 10.4 K; the next year [2009] it was 11.1 K, and the KBO League has drawn above 11 K ever since. The health of Korean pro baseball these days can be seen in the fact that there has been recent expansion. The KBO League finally got to 10 teams with creation of a 9th team (the NC Dinos) in 2013, and a 10th team (the KT Wiz) in 2015.

And there is no doubt that the caliber of Korean baseball players has improved in the last 25 years or so. There is a large number of South Koreans playing in Japan, in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). And in the United States (and Canada), in Major League Baseball, there are currently 5 Korean-born players, of which I have brief profiles below.

List of Major League Baseball players from South Korea (en.wikipedia.org).
[Note on Korean nomenclature: first syllables are last-names in Korean (ie, Shin-soo Choo is Mr. Shin).]
Shin-soo Choo: (age 35) Texas Rangers OF, who also played for Mariners, Indians, and Reds (in MLB since 2005). Shin was born and raised in Busan, in southern South Korea. Shin-soo never played in the KBO League, because he was such a good prospect that he was signed out of high school by the Seattle Mariners, and went up through the MiLB farm system. He has hit over 20 HR five times (including 22 HR for the Rangers in 2017), and, as of 14 Apr 2018, has hit 177 HR and has a lifetime .277 BAvg.
Hyun-jin Ry: (age 31) Los Angeles Dodgers Starting Pitcher (LHP), since 2013. Hyun played for Hanwha Eagles in the KBO League (2006-12). He had two 14-win seasons for the LA Dodgers (in 2013 and ’14). Injuries held him back in 2015 and ’16, but this season, as of 14 Apr 2018, he is 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA.
Jung-ho Kang: (age 30) Pittsburgh Pirates 3B/SS. Jung played for the Hyundai Unicorns and the Nexen Heroes in the KBO League. He signed with Pittsburgh in 2015. (The Pirates have long had a vast overseas scouting network, and have a long history, goibng all the way back to the early 1960s, of unearthing and then utilizing talent from abroad.) As of 14 Apr 2018, Jung has amassed a 6.5 WAR, with a .273 BAvg.
Seung-hwan Oh: (age 35) Toronto Blue Jays Relief Pitcher (RHP) (in MLB since 2016). Seung played for the Samsung Lions in the KBO League (2005-13, with two KBO-title-wins in ’12 and ’13). Then he had a 2-year stint in Japan with the NPB team the Hanshin Tigers. Then after signing with St. Louis in 2015, Seung had 39 Saves in 2 seasons with the Cardinals, including a 2.26 ERA in 2016. He now works middle-relief for the Blue Jays.
Ji-man Choi: (age 26) Los Angeles Angels 1B/OF (in MLB since 2016), previously played for the NY Yankees and the Brewers. Ji-man Choi was born and raised in Incheon. Like Shin-soo Choo, Ji never played in the KBO League, because he was signed by an MLB club as a teenager. And also like Shin-soo Choo, Ji-man Choi signed with Seattle [in 2009]. (The Mariners have a pretty extensive scouting network in East Asia.)

Last season [2017], the KBO League averaged 11,668 per game (up 0.7% from 2016). Half the league (5 teams) averaged above 12-K-per-game last season.
Those five higher-drawing teams are listed below (all of whom were charter-members of the KBO League in 1982, except for the SK Wyverns)…
–The two big Seoul-base teams: the LG Twins (colors: Black-and-Magenta), and the Doosan Bears (Midnight-Blue-and-Red). The two have a stadium-share at the 25.5-K-capacity Jamsil Baseball Stadium. The LG Twins are classic under-achievers (with just 2 KBO titles, last in 1994), while the Doosan, and formerly OB, Bears are the third-most titled KBO club, with 5 titles (last in 2016).
-The southern-South-Korea-based Lotte Giants (of second-city Busan), who play in Korea’s largest ballpark, the 26.8-K-capacity Busan Sajik Baseball Stadium. The Lotte Giants are the oldest Korean ball club, formed as an amateur team in 1975. But, just like the LG Twins, they are a high-drawing club that can’t seem to win many titles…they also have only 2 KBO titles (last in 1992). The Lotte Giants used to wear black-and-orange like their namesakes from San Francisco, but switched this season to Navy-Blue-and-Red {see new logos on the map-page}.
-The reigning champs and all-time most-titled team, the Kia Tigers (of 6th-largest city Gwanju). The Bright-Red-and-Navy-clad Tigers have a relatively new ballpark, Gwangju-Kia Champions Field.
-And the SK Wyverns (est. 2000), of Incheon (which is on the north-west coast, about 18 miles west of Seoul, and is part of Greater Seoul, and is also the 3rd-largest city in the country). The Red-and-Orange-clad SK Wyverns have a pretty nice-looking ballpark, the 16-year-old/26-K-capacity Munhak Baseball Stadium. (Note: a wyvern is a half-dragon/-half-snake, as featured on Leyton Orient FC’s crest.) The SK Wyverns have won 3 KBO titles (last in 2010); 3 titles in 18 seasons is a decent trophy-haul.

The most successful ball club in Korea is the aforementioned Kia Tigers, who have won 10 of the 36 KBO titles, including the 2017 title (see illustration further below). Second-most successful club in the KBO is the Samsung Lions, another small-market team that over-achieves: the Lions, of fourth-city Daegu, have won 8 KBO titles (including 4 straight Korean Series titles from 2011-15). Like their Detroit-Michigan-based namesakes, the Samsung Lions wear Cornflower-Blue. Samsung Lions drew 9.7-K in 2017; they have a new ballpark, the 24-K-capacity Daegu Samsung Lions Park, which opened in 2016.

I will round out the rest of the KBO League teams not mentioned above [ie, the 4 lowest-drawing teams], via the bracketed parts within the full list of KBO League teams below…
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KBO_League#Teams
The KBO League is, in 2018, comprised of the following…
5 teams from Greater Seoul/Incheon/Suwon (metropolitan-area Greater Seoul)
3 teams from Seoul’s core-city-region: the Doosan Bears, the LG Twins, and the Nexen Heroes.
[Nexen Heroes, est. 2008, wear Maroon; they have won no titles (see note on map-page titles list for franchise-change-history of Unicorns/Heroes).]
2 teams from Greater Seoul, with one team in South Korea’s third-largest city of Incheon, the SK Wyverns, and
1 team located about 19 miles south of Seoul-city-center in Suwon [the Black-clad KT Wiz, est. 2015].
5 KBO teams from the rest of South Korea
The other 5 teams in the KBO League are comprised as follows [clockwise on the map]…
1 team from the fifth-largest city, Daejon [the Black-and-Orange-clad Hanwah Eagles, est. 1985, who won the 1999 title];
1 team from the the fourth-largest city, Daegu, the Samsung Lions;
1 team from the second-largest city, Busan, the Lotte Giants;
1 team from the 8th-largest city, Changwon [the Dark-Blue/Light-Blue-and-Gold-clad NC Dinos, est. 2013]; and
1 team from the sixth-largest city, Gwanju, the KIA Tigers [see illustration below]).

Kia Tigers, 2017 Korean Series champions (their 11th KBO League title; most in league)
2017-korea-series_kbo-league_kia-tigers_2017-champions_gwangju-kia-champions-field_b_.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
Yang Hyeon-jong (LHP), photo by Yonhap at english.yonhapnews.co.kr. Roger Bernadina (OF), photo by Yonhap at english.yonhapnews.co.kr. Choi Hyoung-woo (OF), photo by Yonhap at english.yonhapnews.co.kr. Kia Tigers players celebrate, photo by Yonhap via koreatimes.co.kr. Kia Tigers cap, photo from vjkorea.com. Gwangju-Kia Champions Field, aerial photo unattributed at dutchbaseballhangout.wordpress.com. Screenshot of Kia Tigers cheerleaders & mascot on dugout roof, image from video uploaded by K.L. Jin at youtube.com. Kia Tigers fans with flags and banners, photo by Yonhap via shinailbo.co.kr. Kia Tigers players [and mascot] bow to their fans, photo by hgryu77@newsis.com at isplus.live.joins.com.
___
Thanks to all at the following links…
-Globe-map of South Korea, by Ksiom at File:South Korea (orthographic projection).svg (commons.wikimedia.org).
-Blank map of South Korea, by NordNordWest at :FileSouth Korea location map.svg (commons.wikimedia.org).
-Attendance…koreabaseball.com/Record/Crowd/History (koreabaseball.com).
-Lotte Giants’ official shop, lottegiantsshop.com/[new 2018 cap], thanks for photo of the brand-new Lotte Giants’ deep-navy-blue-and-wine-red ball cap logo.
-KBO teams’ K-stamps (2016) [KBO-team-cap-with-mascot], by Shin Jaeyong/Korea Post stampworld.com/stamps/South-Korea/Postage-stamps/g3144/.
-Thanks to Dan @MyKBO, for the re-tweet.

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